9 March 2017 Feature

Emissions reduction: 6 ideas from the CBI's members

The CBI has set out how its members believe the UK can step up to the challenge of cutting carbon dioxide output by 57 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030. Business Voice asked two members of the CBI’s Energy Board, industrial gas supplier BOC and energy services company Schneider Electric, for their most effective strategies


Use the Internet of Things in buildings


The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a revolutionary concept of connecting everyday devices to the internet. We have IoT kettles and light bulbs. By fitting buildings with IoT sensors and controls, it is possible to monitor and reduce energy use to cut emissions. Schneider Electric UK & Ireland president, Tanuja Randery, says, “82 per cent of untapped energy efficiency is in buildings. The building stock in the UK is particularly poor. If we could give people a way of measuring their usage and monitoring it, you know what? We could absolutely release a huge amount of efficiency savings.”


Switch from natural gas to hydrogen


Home-heating boilers burn gas. There are more than 20m of them in the UK, and each one emits carbon dioxide. Switching from natural gas to hydrogen could help. BOC managing director Sue Graham Johnston explains, “A realistic way to achieve decarbonisation is by converting our gas grid to take hydrogen. Most of the UK’s natural gas pipelines are plastic, so they’re already suitable for hydrogen transmission. Some boilers and other appliances would need to be modified to burn hydrogen – but instead of emitting carbon dioxide, they would only produce moisture.”


Upgrade your reporting


It’s now common to think about the “triple bottom line” of profit, the planet and people. Schneider Electric takes this much further. It publishes a Planet & Society Barometer, tracking 16 non-financial indicators. These include the proportion of customer projects with carbon dioxide quantification, emissions savings through better transportation, and landfill waste. Progress is tracked quarterly against annual targets. “The Barometer has helped us become one of the global 100 most sustainable corporations,” says Randery.


Get certified


There’s tremendous support out there for any company wanting to improve its environmental performance. And success usually comes with certification: which is great for marketing, and for motivating staff. BOC has an impressive set. There are also governmental schemes. BOC is involved in:

  • ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme)
  • CRC (Carbon Reduction Energy Efficiency Scheme)
  • CCL & CCA (Climate Change Levy and Climate Change Agreements)
  • EUETS (European Union Emissions Trading Scheme)
  • Producer Responsibility Obligations.


Use predictive analytics


Forecasting demand is the key to a smart grid. When combined with sensors which track the performance of infrastructure, utilities providers can radically improve the performance of renewable power sources such as solar and wind. Schneider Electric helps wind farms with advanced demand management. Randery says, “You don't get wind all the time. You don't have solar all the time. It becomes a much more complex grid management function. So what they've done is use our software to balance demand and supply in a software based approach.”

Data is used to protect equipment: “It allows them to shut off things in areas remotely. It allows them to fix faults remotely. It allows them to tell a fault is going to happen before it happens.”

Best of all, installing this sort of software is unobtrusive, and costs little to install. 


Capture carbon


Hailed as a magic bullet for low-carbon energy production, carbon capture has sometimes been criticised as expensive and uncertain. But it would be essential to decarbonise the large-scale production of hydrogen. Hydrogen is produced by BOC from natural gas, in a process known as steam methane reforming, or SMR. Graham Johnston explains: “This technology is thermally efficient and remains the most cost effective way of producing hydrogen on a large scale. BOC operates several SMR plants including the largest independently owned plant in the UK, located in Teesside. Steam methane reforming produces carbon dioxide emissions which in normal operation are released to the atmosphere. Through the process of carbon capture and storage, carbon dioxide can be captured, compressed and permanently stored underground. This would mean large-scale, economic production of hydrogen with very limited carbon dioxide emitted to atmosphere.” 

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